What are the regulations to curtail misleading food ads?

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Source: The post is based on the articleWhat are the regulations to curtail misleading food ads?published in The Hindu on 9th May 2023

What is the News?

The Advertisement Monitoring Committee at the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) flagged 32 fresh cases of food business operators (FBOs) making misleading claims and advertisements.

What does FSSAI want from the advertisements?

FSSAI wants advertisements and claims to be truthful, unambiguous, meaningful, not misleading and help consumers to comprehend the information provided.

The claims must be scientifically substantiated by validated methods of characterizing or quantifying the ingredient or substance that is the basis for the claim.

What are the deceptive words used in the advertisements to mislead consumers?

Natural: A food product can be referred to as ‘natural’ if it is a single food derived from a recognised natural source and has nothing added to it.

– Composite foods – a mixture of plant and processed constituents can be called ‘made from natural ingredients’ instead of ‘natural’.

Fresh: It can be used for products which are not processed in any manner other than washing, peeling, chilling, trimming, cutting or irradiation by ionizing radiation (not exceeding 1 kG to delay in ripening, killing of insects/pests, etc).

– Those with additives (to increase shelf life) may instead use ‘freshly frozen’, ‘fresh frozen’, or ‘frozen from fresh’ to contextualize that it was quickly frozen while fresh.

Pure and original: ‘Pure’ is to be used for single-ingredient foods to which nothing has been added and which are devoid of all avoidable contamination.

– ‘Original’ is used to describe food products made to a formulation, with a traceable origin that has remained unchanged over time.

Nutritional claims: Nutritional claims may either be about the specific contents of a product or comparisons with some other foodstuff.

– Claims of equivalence such as “contains the same of (nutrient) as a (food)” or “as much (nutrient) as a (food)” may be used in the labelling.

– Most complaints of misleading Ads were related to the nutrition of a product, its benefits and the ingredient mix not being based on adequate evidence.

What are the regulations to combat misleading advertisements?

There are varied regulations to combat misleading advertisements and claims:

Food Safety and Standards (Advertising & Claims) Regulations, 2018: It specifically deals with food (and related products). The rules prohibit companies from using deceptive words like “natural”, “fresh”, “original”, “traditional”, “premium”, “finest”, “best”, “authentic”, “genuine” and “real”. 

– Product claims suggesting a prevention, alleviation, treatment or cure of a disease, disorder or particular psychological condition is prohibited unless specifically permitted under the regulations of the FSS Act, 2006.

Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA): It has been set up under Consumer Protection Act, 2019. It has been set up to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers as a class. 

– It is empowered to conduct investigations into violation of consumer rights and institute complaints/prosecution, order recalls of unsafe goods and services, order discontinuation of unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements, impose penalties on manufacturers/endorsers/publishers of misleading advertisements.

Programme and Advertising Codes prescribed under the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994: It stipulates that advertisements must not imply that the products have some special or miraculous or supernatural property or quality, which is difficult to prove. 

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